Legislation / Legal
HO: From 30 September 2009 courts will have greater freedom to grant restraining orders when abusers appear before them, giving victims immediate protection and sparing them the ordeal of a separate civil action. Currently courts can only issue restraining orders following conviction for 2 types of offences: harassment or putting someone in fear of violence.
Under the new rules an order can be made following conviction for any offence (and even where someone is acquitted) in order to better protect victims. Breaking the terms of a restraining order is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
A cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls strategy will be published in the Autumn following a consultation earlier in 2009.
Press release ~ National Domestic Violence Delivery Plan Annual Progress Report 2008/09 ~ Women's Aid ~ Domestic Violence Mini-site ~ HO – Domestic Violence
HO: Man-made chemicals which are sprayed on herbal smoking products such as ‘Spice’ and the chemical solvent GBL are two of the so called ‘Legal highs’ to be banned by the end of 2009, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has announced.
As part of the Government’s commitment to tackle the emerging threat of so called ‘legal highs’, a new information campaign to educate young people on the dangers of a range of these substances has also been announced. The campaign, which will launch during the traditional student Freshers’ week in September, will highlight their dangers, particularly when they are mixed with alcohol.
Press release ~ Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) advice ~ ACMD reports ~ The Independent: What’s the truth about legal highs?
HO: New powers to crack down on people responsible for alcohol-fuelled crime & antisocial behaviour have come into force. Police & local authorities are now able to apply for Drinking Banning Orders (DBO) on individuals aged 16 & upwards, who regularly commit crime or anti-social behaviour while under the influence of the alcohol.
Magistrates will be able to impose any condition they think is necessary under the ‘booze ASBOs’ to protect the public from that individual committing further offences. This could include banning from consuming alcohol in public places, including certain pubs, bars & off licences and restricting them from entering certain areas.
DBO Positive Behaviour Intervention Courses will be available across the country and will be run by a list of approved providers. The Government is not supporting these courses financially and participants will be expected to pay a fee for attending the courses, between £120 and £250, to cover the costs.
HO: Female couples now have the same rights as heterosexual couples when registering the birth of a child conceived as a result of fertility treatment. From 1 September 2009, changes to the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 mean female civil partners who use fertility treatment to conceive a child will be treated in the same way as married couples, with both female parents' names able to be included on the birth certificate.
In addition, female couples not in a civil partnership, but receiving fertility treatment may also be registered as parents in the same way as unmarried heterosexual couples. In both cases, providing relevant conditions are met, the female partner of the mother can be recorded as ‘parent’ in the birth or still-birth registration and on any certificates issued. Before this change, the mother's female partner could not be registered as a parent.
The changes to the regulations were approved by Registrar General, James Hall, earlier this year following Royal Assent for new parenthood provisions contained in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. The Act's provisions only apply to female couples who have fertility treatment on or after April 6 2009.
MoJ: The Ministry of Justice has set out proposals to rebalance the legal aid budget to ensure that the £2bn currently spent every year goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most. The proposals intend to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget, reform & rationalise payment structures and sustain legal aid for the next 60 years - See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.